Cliff Bleszinski isn't a man to mince words. At E3 2016, we asked him what he thought of Microsoft's new console strategy; specifically relating to the Scorpio and Xbox One S. He proceeded to talk a blue streak — with emphasis on "blue"...
Cliff Bleszinski was at E3 to promote his upcoming multiplayer FPS for PC, LawBreakers. (You can read his take on Lawbreakers cosplay here.) During our interview, Cliff discussed Microsoft's bold new Xbox gamble.
For those who missed the memo, Microsoft announced not one, but two new consoles during its press briefing: the miniature Xbox One S and the enthusiast-level Project Scorpio. Both consoles will be sold alongside the existing Xbox One and they will all play the same games thanks to backward-and-forward compatibility.
As the former design director for Epic Games and the driving force behind Gears Of War 1, 2 and 3, Bleszinski has been heavily ingrained in all things Xbox for a huge chunk of his career. It's therefore unsurprising that he has pretty strong opinions on the platform. Here are the key points he raised in our discussion:
On the multiple console strategy: "Is Microsoft going full Sega 32x and Mega CD right now? I think it's weird. The way the branding's going, it feels like the way Mercedes name their cars in the United States, y'know; the S class! The SOK! The SK! Which fucking one is this? Consumers only have enough time and attention for that. It's like dude, are you trying to turn the Xbox into a PC? What's going on right now?"
On Scorpio: "I think it feels like an apology move for them for not making the console as powerful as it should have been in favour of making sure the Kinect was boxed in with it. So now they have to play catch-up. In a way, you can trace this all the way back to their well-intended E3 from a few years ago — where they were trying to go fully digital, etcetera, etectera, and the internet backlash made them back pedal."
On being "VR ready": "The thing about setting up VR is that it's a bit of a pain in the butt. I'm from the generation where your parents got the VCR, plugged it in and the clock was blinking twelve forever. Getting any home electronics installed shouldn't be a lot of work. So it's another one of those things that is almost making it like a PC, or going full circle."
On Scorpion-enhanced games: "When you do that, you genuinely tend to see games that don't fully shine on the high end. Like we saw with this past console generation [publishers] were hedging their bets with a chicken-and-the-egg thing. They were putting the games on PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One and basically you get higher resolution textures but it's still a masked texture instead of being dynamically generated. So they're kind of hobbling themselves in regards to that kind of scalability. It's trying to have your cake and eat it too."
On potential effects on multiplayer: "If you make a game and it's on the cheaper console and it's 30 frame per second and 60 frames on the other console, that could affect the performance in a twitch shooter, for example. It's the same thing with Cross Play for action games which I don't understand the desire for. I can understand with co-op games but if you have a shooter and one player has a controller and another player has a keyboard and mouse and the controller person is at 30 (fps) and the mouse-and-keyboard person is at 60, most of the time the keyboard person is going to completely dominate. So good luck with your match making."
On keeping it real: "Look, I have a lot of friends over there so I wouldn't criticise them unless I was pretty positive about it...If Phil Spencer was here right now I'd tell him he back peddled to his face. And he'd say "you're a dick, but you're right!"
We reached out to Microsoft for comment and were told that the announcement of Project Scorpio was mainly intended to engage the developer community and they'll have more to share soon. For a more detailed analysis of Microsoft's bold new Xbox strategy, check out our interview with Microsoft Studios’s head of publishing Shannon Loftis.